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Taft High School's New Principal Is Mark Grishaber

 Mark Grishaber, an assistant principal at Whitney Young High School, addresses a forum June 9 held to pick a new leader for Taft.
Mark Grishaber, an assistant principal at Whitney Young High School, addresses a forum June 9 held to pick a new leader for Taft.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

NORWOOD PARK — The Taft High School Local School Council unanimously picked Mark Grishaber, an assistant principal at Whitney Young High School, to lead Taft High School for the next four years.

Grishaber, who lives seven blocks from Taft, rushed over to the school Thursday night to accept the council's offer, council chairwoman Lisa Schwieger said.

"To say that he was thrilled with the opportunity would be an understatement," Schwieger said.

However, Grishaber did not sign a contract, Schwieger said. "Several mutually agreeable items" will be added to the contract before Grishaber signs it, she added.

Grishaber has been an assistant principal at Whitney Young since 2006, but before that he was a teacher and the chairman of the computer department at the Catholic all-boys St. Patrick High School in Portage Park for 13 years.

In addition to a master's degree in education administration from Northeastern Illinois University, he has a master's degree in business administration from Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage.

Grishaber said he was a "numbers nerd" with the "heart of a teacher" who intended to spend the rest of his career at Taft, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.

The other finalists were Taft Interim Principal Carolyn Rownd and Foreman High School Assistant Principal Staci Stratigakes.

Grishaber will take over July 1. Taft Principal Mary Kay Cappitelli stepped down because of health issues in November, and resigned in April.

In a message posted Friday to the Taft High School website, Schwieger thanked Rownd for leading the Norwood Park school for seven months during "a tumultuous time and one of uncertainty."

"She positively affected so many of us here at Taft and will be missed, but we wish her much success and happiness in her career," Schwieger said.

Rownd is expected to return to Jones College Prep as an assistant principal.

During a forum Monday designed to give parents and teachers a chance to meet the three finalists, Grishaber vowed to improve Taft's less-than-stellar reputation and make it one of the best schools in the state.

Grishaber, who touted himself as a "Northwest Side guy" did not respond Friday to email and phone messages.

Grishaber said he would delete his resume from his computer if he was selected as Taft's new principal, and promised to remain at Taft until he retired.

Too many students who live on the Northwest Side choose to attend high school out of the area, Grishaber said at the forum. To reverse that trend, Taft should host more sports tournaments and summer programs, in order to allow grammar school students and their families to get comfortable at Taft, he said.

Grishsaber said he would work to raise Taft's 75 percent graduation rate, raise its average college entrance exam score, improve its attendance rate and raise the school's ranking, which is now in the lower third of Illinois schools.

Grishaber said he would put his business degree to work when finalizing the school's budget — and he promised to put the best teacher in the classroom, regardless of the cost of his or her salary and benefits.

Grishaber promised to make Taft a more fun place to go to school — and said he would like to break the Guinness Book of World Record for Hacky Sack, a game that challenges players to keep a small cloth bag off the ground using their feet.

He also promised to run a five-kilometer race with Taft teachers, and celebrate everyone's birthday, while maintaining an open-door policy in encourage the free flow of information between his administration, teachers, parents and students.

When he takes over Taft, Grishaber will oversee an ongoing $17 million renovation of the 74-year-old building. The project promises to repair the crumbling building, replace windows, build several new science labs and replace lockers.

In addition, Taft just finished its first year as a wall-to-wall International Baccalaureate program.

The school is also the most crowded high school in Chicago. Approximately 3,195 Taft students attend class in a building with an ideal capacity of 2,184 students, making it the most crowded Chicago Public Schools high school, according to data released by CPS.

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